Exercise 2: Smell
The kitchen might be the best place to begin this exercise, or you might prefer the bathroom with all its soapy smells, or maybe the garden. Wherever it is you choose to be, try first to locate a smell that you really enjoy. Fresh baked bread or nice spicy smells. Talcum powder or tooth paste. Or the smell of roses or lilac.
As you train your nose, ask yourself how many smells you can find? A dozen? Two dozen? As you concentrate on each smell, how acute does your sense of smell become?
How many feelings are triggered when you use your sense of smell?, and how aware of your self does your awareness of these smells make you? Ask, how many memories are there, and where do they come from? How far back in your life does this exercise take you, what do they remind you of?
How often am I aware of my sense of smell?
How often do I sense smell?
How often do I enjoy my ability to smell?
How often do I find my ability to smell distasteful?
How often do I smell myself?
Try to ask the same questions you asked as you worked with sound, with your hearing, and ask these same questions as you work with each of your five senses, as the principle is the same. Working on your sense of smell, a good question to ask is: How aware of your own smell are you? All of us have an individual smell, and it is easy for a parent to recognize the individual smells of her children, and a mother can often tell if her child is ill from a certain smell which she associates with sickness in that child.
Interestingly, Samantha would always know when I had been crying. She would smell my skin and know I had been upset. Her sense of smell was obviously acute, and in tune with me and my emotions.
Animals use their sense of smell to smell us. We are animals too, but because most of us do not live out in the wild, do not rely on our senses for survival, going to the supermarket is so much easier, we have not lost, but have certainly mislaid the acuteness of our senses. Let's try and see if we can discover them again.
Here are some suggestions of more smells to try, as well as those you will already have thought of.
Salty sea air. Apple pie. Baby talc. Fresh mown grass. Cooked cheese. Perfume. Roses. Biscuits, fresh baked. Soap. Freesias. Strawberry jam. Hand cream.
All of these smells are good smells. Try them out, then, if you can, write down all of your thoughts and feelings and be surprised at how acute your sense of smell has become.
And one smell that you must learn to become aware of, an all important smell:
THE SMELL OF EARTH.
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In the early spring of l998, I traveled to Italy, to Rome, architecturally one of the most amazing and beautiful cities in the world. I had been invited to be a guest on the Maurizio Constanzo show, one of, if not the most popular show in the country.
This was not my first time in Rome, for I had been there two or three times before. Nor was it my first appearance on the Constanzo show, and I was one of seven or so guests. Each guest had a particular subject, and each subject had to do with our five senses. I was the guest talking about our sixth sense.
We all sat on stage together, and I listened with varying degrees of interest as each person explained their reasons for being on the show. One was an aroma therapist, another a masseuse, a brain surgeon, a hypnotherapist, and a man who had something to do with pyramids. Then there was a lovely young actress, whose name I must confess I've forgotten, one other Italian celebrity, and a man who I found the most fascinating of all. He was a doctor, a psychiatrist, and he worked in a very specialized field dealing with children, mainly, from what I could understand, who were unable, for various reasons, to communicate in the usual way.
He told a story, a most moving and curious tale of a young boy, only four years old, who was one of his patients. The child seemed to him at first autistic, for he would neither speak in a language that anyone understood, nor did he seem to hear or respond in any way to anyone or anything, and he would avert his eyes if anyone tried to make contact. No one knew what to make of the boy, or how to help him, and he had been referred to this psychiatrist as a last hope.
The boy's mother visited every day, and as the psychiatrist got to know the child better, watching closely for any signs of awareness of his world, he began to see a pattern form. Never looking in his mother's direction when she entered the room, even so, the sounds he made seemed the same each time she visited. Then the psychiatrist began to see that in certain circumstances, the boy would make particular noises. Each time a certain circumstance arose, the boy would make the same response. The doctor realized that indeed the boy was responding to his environment, just not in a way that anyone else could understand. He did have a language, just not one that was known. It was his own, and his alone.
The doctor knew that if he could not learn to understand the boy, to at least understand his language, then the boy would be lost. He consulted his team, and it was decided that they would record the child's sounds, garbled and undecipherable, and try to decipher them.
Not of a technical mind. And speaking almost no Italian, I became somewhat lost in the details of the types of special equipment and techniques which were used, but simply put, if the tapes were played at a certain rate, and on a particular piece of machinery, it became possible to decipher much of what the boy said.
I was fascinated, and totally involved in the story, as in the strangest way I could relate to what the doctor was saying, and was truly in empathy with the child. For often the sounds that come from the universe, from the spirit world, sound garbled and indecipherable, even to a trained ear, and it requires much patience and a mind willing enough to sift through the sounds again and again and yet again, sometimes a hundred times, before the sounds become language, become communication that we can recognize.
The doctor continued his story, telling us how eventually the child became more sociable, more approachable. "Then," the doctor told, "one day, I picked him up and as he sat on my knee, he began to sniff at me. Climbing up, he sniffed my hair, my face, my skin and mouth. Moving down, he went to my neck, my hands, my chest. Like an animal, he was sniffing me out, recognizing me by my smell. As each new person came into the room and picked him up to talk to him he would do the same. Never rejecting anyone, and obviously he was gaining knowledge of the person by their smell. "Well," the doctor continued, "I have seen animals do this, but I have never before seen humans, a child. But his sense of smell must be very acute, and he had begun, in his way, to communicate with us."
I listened intently, fascinated with this story, thinking how very sensitive this little boy must be. How I wanted to know more, to become more involved. But it was not possible, except perhaps, through my prayers.
Towards the end of the show, my host asked my opinion of his other guests, of their talents and abilities. It was my chance to ask a burning question about the child I had become so interested in. "Doctor," I said, looking directly to the psychiatrist who was seated at the end of the stage, "Doctor, you told us you were able to decipher some of the sounds the boy made. Could you tell us some of what the child was trying to say?" The psychiatrist smiled a sad smile, "Yes," he said, "we were able to understand quite a lot. There are two phrases in particular that he repeats on a regular basis. One..."There is the one who comes and goes." This, the doctor told us, the boy spoke when referring to his mother. The second phrase he spoke more often, and this, refers to him. The child, four years old,
speaks of himself..."Here is the mad man."